29 APRIL 2009 AUCKLAND (Pacnews) ---- Two women with suspected flu symptoms have been detained by health officials after arriving at New Zealand’s Auckland Airport this morning, reports Stuff NZ
An Auckland Regional Public Health Service official said the two arrived on a Qantas flight from Los Angeles early this morning.
They have been taken to Middlemore Hospital and will be tested for swine flu. More details are expected later this morning. Thousands of New Zealanders may have been exposed to the deadly swine flu virus because of a three-day delay in alerting health boards to potentially infected people.
Health Ministry officials confirmed last night that three of the 11 Rangitoto College pupils had contracted the deadly virus after visiting Mexico on a school trip. They were awaiting testing results on another seven pupils, who were assumed to have the virus.
All were under voluntary isolation in their homes and being treated with the anti-viral drug, Tamiflu. Dozens of other passengers who shared Air New Zealand flight NZ1 from Los Angeles with the infected pupils remain in quarantine and are yet to be tested.
“On the basis of these results we are assuming that all of the people in the group, who had tested positive for Influenza A, have Swine Flu,” a New Zealand Health Ministry statement said.
The swine flu virus has killed close to 150 people in Mexico and infected dozens in the United States, Canada and Europe. Spain's health minister has confirmed a second case of swine flu, while Israel also confirmed one case.
Health officials are investigating a further 43 cases of possible swine flu - this figure has been revised down from 56 following further investigations yesterday.
As confirmation of the outbreak emerged, the Government faced criticism for its Officials have admitted they did not send swabs taken from the 11 pupils for testing till Monday night, missing a flight to Melbourne because of delays in packaging the samples.
The Government has now moved from trying to contain the outbreak to attempting to minimise it.
Another member of the school group tested positive for influenza. Rangitoto College principal David Hodge said most of the school party, which visited Mexico on a three week trip, had recovered with only one student, who already suffered from asthma, still unwell.
He said he was shocked at the test results, “even though it was a possibility”
But Auckland Regional Public Health officials said the families of the swine flu-infected had taken the news well.
Officials did not plan to update New Zealand's health alert code from “yellow” to “red” following the positive results. The result merely confirmed that it had been “sensible for us to have been cautious”, Public Health Director Mark Jacobs said.
Dr Jacobs said the general public did not need to worry as officials were working to contain the spread and those with confirmed swine flu had so far experienced mild symptoms.
“There is no indication it is any more or less contagious than any other form of influenza,'' he said.
It was most contagious a day before symptoms appeared and up to seven days after. The greatest risk was in the early days.
All but 18 of the 356 people on board flight NZ1 have now been contacted, offered Tamiflu and been asked to stay in voluntary home isolation.
Auckland doctor Jim McVeagh, who works at a private accident and medical clinic, said everyone should have been contacted immediately it became apparent passengers had symptoms of the deadly swine flu.
Dr McVeagh treated a patient on Monday from the same flight as the infected pupils. She had rung Health Line and been told to visit her doctor “one of the most spectacularly bad pieces of advice” he had heard.
“I am hoping this isn't a big deal, because we've probably already missed the boat with containment. I think the Health Ministry has been a bit tardy, a bit relaxed.” ….PNS (ENDS)